Learn Astrology

The Zodiac Signs in Modern Astrology vs. Traditional Astrology

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A page from Christian Astrology by William Lilly 1647, pub. Astrology Classics, 2004

Modern astrology is a term that typically refers to a group of different branches of astrology that was developed and flourished in the 20th century. Among historians of astrology, modern astrology encompasses forms of practicing astrology that place a significant emphasis on psychology and character analysis.

Under this heading are Humanistic astrology, Uranian astrology, Evolutionary astrology, psychological astrology more generally, and their combinations with each other and expansions made by their practitioners.

Likewise there are also several forms of Traditional astrology: Renaissance, Medieval, Hellenistic, and the life breathed into these forms by the modern practitioners who have inherited this knowledge. Traditional forms of astrology are more systematic than modern forms, containing objective rules for analysis. They do not place as strong of an emphasis on psychological analysis and they more frequently extend beyond natal chart analysis.

With that said, the forms of astrology I discuss on this blog, and that I teach in my upcoming Introduction to the Zodiac Signs class, is a mix of modern forms of astrology and traditional forms of astrology. They are the concepts that I have found to work in my practice.

Here are some of the main differences between modern astrology and traditional astrology in their approaches to the zodiac signs.

No. 1 – “In traditional astrology, signs are not viewed in primarily psychological terms, while in many forms of modern astrology, they are viewed in psychological terms.” – Ben Dykes

In traditional astrology the sign of Virgo indicates more information than psychological associations. Virgo can point to a place — Lilly says “a closet, cornfields, a study where books are”, it is double-bodied, which points to its versatility or ability to be multifaceted in a number of ways, it is an earth sign which lends itself to being focused on practical affairs of the word.

In modern astrology, the same sign of Virgo has many more symbolic associations and a broader, looser conceptual schema.

For example, Virgo’s traditional association with the intestines and digestion is symbolically extended in modern astrology to say — Virgo’s has the ability for processing minutiae, perhaps even extracting what is life-giving from what is wasteful. This gives them the potential to have a strong bent for technical analysis. This association can also be seen in lingual, perceptive, cognitive Mercury’s rulership and exaltation in the sign of Virgo.

No. 2 – In traditional astrology, signs act as places of dignity for the planets. 

Each zodiac sign has a planetary ruler, and most of the signs have exaltation rulers. Scorpio, Sagittarius, Aquarius, Gemini, and Leo do not have exaltation rulers. No planet is exalted in these signs.

A planetary ruler shows the style of energetic expression of the sign. Mars is the ruler of Aries. Aries as a martial nature. Aries asserts itself, it is competitive, it wants to be first, it is lively and energetic, it is quick to anger, and that anger dissipates just as quickly.

No. 3 – Modern astrology adds symbolism traditionally found in the houses to the signs. 

In several forms of Modern astrology, the sign of Gemini is associated with siblings. This is not the case in traditional astrology, where siblings belong properly and only to the third house of the horoscope. Yet I have seen Saturn in Gemini represent a challenge associated with a sibling.

In traditional astrology, money as earned income properly belongs to the second house. Yet there is an association between Taurus, fecundity, and security that can be meaningfully extended to a Taurean facility or at least connection with money and its generation.

The modern approach is symbolically fertile; the traditional approach is rigorous and technically masterful. I have found that forms of both systems and their amalgamation work.

Astrology is a form of divination. It is a symbolic system that involves developing a meaningful relationship with cosmic intelligences. Astrology is alive, and it responds to the language in which it becomes accustomed to speaking with you.

In the Sufi tradition, a branch of mystical Islam, the notion of “tahqiq” means to verify for yourself. Wisdom can be passed to you from a wise person, a learned person, or an elder, but you should discover the truth of that wisdom for yourself. This does mean first having the correct architecture so that you can understand what is being conveyed. Then, understanding often takes a form of lived embodiment of the truth that is conveyed, that produces a knowing that is beyond head knowledge or book knowledge. That is a Jupiterian quality of knowing.

If you would like to expand, deepen, or begin your studies in astrology, join me for my Introduction to the Zodiac Signs Class, beginning on May 31.

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